I’m in. As of this episode, I am officially in.
Allow me to explain. As most of you know, I wasn’t a huge fan of Survivor: San Juan del Sur. I didn’t hate it. It wasn’t one of the absolute worst. But it was a letdown from the genius that was Survivor: Cagayan. Granted, pretty much anything would be a letdown from that, but the cast featured way too many people who weren’t fans of the game and had no idea what they were doing. Finding people to root for was difficult, especially after Josh and Jeremy went out right after the merge. Thankfully, Natalie stepped up in a big way down the stretch, but it still just wasn’t one of my faves.
Then Jeff Probst talked up season 30 big time. Said it was maybe his favorite cast ever. Those are strong words. Contrary to what some of you may think, Probst does not say things like that every time out. I don’t always end up agreeing with him—the Redemption Island season being our biggest split in opinion—but when he gets excited (like with Heroes vs. Villains, Philippines, and Cagayan) I tend more often than not to get excited as well.
So back to Survivor: Worlds Apart. I’ve watched, and for the most part the season has felt middle-of-the-road to me. Not top 10. Not bottom 10. Just somewhere in the middle. Some big personalities, some cool challenges (although because this is Nicaragua, not enough in water), some fun blindsides, but I never felt fully invested. I hadn’t pegged anyone I was truly rooting for in a big way. But over the past few weeks, something has clicked and I find several people I would be happy to see win this game. People like…
Not just because he was my episode 1 pick to win it all (although that certainly does not hurt. I have not had an episode 1 pick win since Todd Herzog took home the million in Survivor: China—he was my third straight choice to win after Yul and Earl, but it has been Goose Egg City ever since). Joe is now undefeated in individual challenges, having won all three contests. But where he really impressed me was with whom he chose to go on the zip-lining/pizza reward. Instead of picking his biggest No Collar allies—as winners usually do—he wisely chose the four potential swing votes in Tyler, Carolyn, Will, and (to a lesser extent since she was already in the fold) Shirin to try and win their loyalty over. It always bugs me how others think socially over strategically and do not do this and instead pick their best buddies. Not Joe. Now, did he capitalize on this? No. And I can certainly shake my head over his decision to share his immunity idol clue with Tyler (who then immediately reported it back to Mike). But at least this guy is thinking out there and has proven himself to be a formidable foe. Probably too formidable to make it to the end, though.
He’s still on my s— list for throwing the challenge, but they always say how you can never sleep on Survivor, and that proved true right here as he faked snoozing and then spied on Joe and Tyler reading the idol clue. He then made his presence known, which spooked Tyler into revealing the clue. But that wasn’t even the best part. The best part was watching Mike endure heat, fatigue, and an ouchie on his finger in his quest to find the idol. I swear, for a minute there I thought I was watching the training montage from Rocky IV, where Rocky works out in a cabin and outruns KGB agents in a Mercedes Benz before scaling a giant mountain to the sweet sounds of “Hearts on Fire” by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band. All that hard work paid off when Mike found the idol, culminating in an awkward air kick/high-five combo that morphed into something called “the happy dance.” Mike has been playing the game and playing the game hard. It’s fun to watch.
Speaking of playing the game hard, “Mama C” has been very active since day 1 and showed grit in challenges. She found an idol and has not even come close to needing to play it yet. Did she make the right move in aligning with the Blue Collars, however? That remains to be seen, but you have to appreciate the hustle. We just need to work on that nickname.
Gotta be honest. Kind of rooting for her to win just to watch Dan’s head explode.
And there are others as well. Tyler is a wild card but could prove to be one worth watching if he ever makes that big move he keeps talking about. And Jenn has certainly had her moments as well, including last week’s playing of the idol. Now, I’m not ready to call this season a runaway success yet by any means. It still hasn’t cracked the top 10 for me. But the fact that there are multiple people playing hard, and worth rooting for has hooked me. The best Survivor seasons always have people to root for and against. This isn’t in the “best” category yet, but maybe it can get there.
Okay, let’s get through all the other notable moments from this week’s episode.